If you’ve read other posts on this site, you know that my abusive marriage with Jerkface O.G. (that’s “original gangsta” for the uninitiated) ended years ago. I now have a normal, non-narcissistic husband who feels real emotions and doesn’t wish to control or oppress me for sport. Once, when I told him he was being “frustrating and annoying,” he sweetly sat next to me and wholeheartedly swore, “I don’t want to be either of those things.” *swoon*
So when I found myself in a toxic work situation last year, I was surprised and ashamed. How could I have let it happen? Why didn’t I see the signs?
Well, for starters I had just dealt with Stage 1 cancer. And I had also just moved across the country. So we can chalk up a good amount to stress.
But there were also a few warning signals that I ignored: the exec who yawned through my interview, the completely conflicting answers on priorities from my boss-to-be and that exceedingly bored exec, and, oh, the phone call post-interview where they told me both that I was perfect and that they needed to interview someone else really awesome and would get back to me in 10 days.
So yeah, just like my ex they told me they were going to be jerks, and I chose to ignore them because I REALLY wanted this job. On paper, it was exactly right for me. It was walking distance from my house! It was for a product I loved! It was in an industry in which I wanted more experience!
So even though I had more than one indication that it maybe wasn’t the healthiest place for me, I ignored those indications and pushed my doubts aside. And the irony of all this is is that I was writing a post about listening to warning signs from abusers right before my first day on the job.
Key takeaway: even those of who have been free from abusive relationships (for more than a decade in my case) can get taken by abusers at work.
So how can we non-abusers protect ourselves professionally? How can we notice the signs of potentially abusive/toxic work environments? Here’s my top 3:
- Take EXTRA time when you’re feeling desperate, as in financially needy, recovering from an illness or tragedy, or are just lonely and ready to get back to work. The right job will wait for you and won’t rush you to accept or start right away.
- Be wary and ask additional questions when you hear managers contradict each other on important issues–especially when those issues relate to the job you’d be doing.
- When a potential employer says something that doesn’t add up, like “you’re perfect but we’re still looking,” that’s the equivalent of a partner saying, “We should get married, but first I want to see if there’s someone better.”
In summary, TRUST YOURSELF. Trust that your perception is correct and that you’re not imagining things. Trust that toxic workplaces do exist and they will reveal themselves to you if you’re paying attention. Trust that a job can be a Jerkface.
Trust that you deserve better.